"Five stars" to me for an ultra-low cost carrier looks like an easy, comfortable, reliable experience with good buy-on-board food options and WiFi for purchase. Wizz Air is easy, comfortable, though unreliable with mediocre overpriced food and no WiFi
Today I flew Wizz Air from Nice to London Gatwick. I was in Nice with some friends (I loved it – I felt like there was something to explore in every corner, and would return in a heartbeat), and wanted to get home to be at my local church by 2 PM. As luck would have it, Wizz Air had a flight leaving Nice at 11:30 AM and arriving London Gatwick at 12:35 PM, so I was looking at being not particularly late to church.
I’m also trying to find the best major leisure travel player in the UK, so this felt like the perfect opportunity to jump on the Wizz Air bandwagon. I flew easyJet last year, and wondered why I didn’t do this more often, as I thought it was great value for a pleasant experience. I’ve got a Ryanair and Norwegian flight booked in the near future as well, both of which I’m looking forward to.
Well, this couldn’t be a less fair comparison – I had three seats to myself, we left on time, half the plane was boarded from a jet bridge, and Nice Airport is pleasant to travel through (especially if you’re in the Schengen area – that area looked significantly nicer than the non-Schengen area, though the non-Schengen area still didn’t look too bad). Obviously with all those things factored in, I couldn’t have had a better flight. However, a few of these things are out of my control, and I’ve done my best to “weed out” what a flight would look like on a “bad” day.
Booking My Flight On Wizz Air
My 0ne-way flight from Nice to London Gatwick started from £17 (HK$169), though I purchased a couple of add-ons for this review. Specifically, I sought out priority boarding and free seat selection. I ended up going with a “Pack & Save” bundle for €89.43 (£76.78/HK$762), which gave me a 20kg checked-in bag and 55x40x23 cm carry-on bag for free, even though I didn’t need either of these – this is not something I’d typically find worth it, though I found priority boarding particularly valuable as I was planning to write a review.
Wizz Air doesn’t take AmEx credit cards, so I paid with a debit card. I decided to use Uber Travel to book a flight for the first time. It didn’t cause any issues at all and was very easy to use, but I wrongly assumed that they were running the same promotion for flights as they were with trains (they’re offering 1 Avios per GBP spent, as well as 10% cashback in Uber credit for trains) – they weren’t. If there were operational issues causing delays or cancellations it would’ve been much harder to get compensation, a refund, or be rebooked, so I would recommend booking directly with Wizz Air (despite the fact that they don’t take AmEx credit cards).
Wizz Air’s Pre-Departure Experience
Since I had booked a fare that came with seat selection included, Wizz Air let me check-in up to 30 days (!) before departure. Unlike easyJet, Wizz Air makes it easy for you to change your seat after you check-in.
Wizz Air doesn’t automatically assign you seats together even if you’re travelling together. I’ve heard that you’re more likely to score big on seats if you play “check-in chicken” and check-in at the very last minute, as Wizz Air’s seat assignment algorithm assigns less desirable seats first to give customers more of an incentive to pay for seat selection. I didn’t mind holding a Wizz Air boarding pass in my wallet for a while (or since last year if you will, since I flew in January).
I also learned upon looking up my flight that it had about a 73% early/on-time rate, with Sundays being particularly bad. For a few Sundays in a row, my flight number was delayed by 3+ hours. Wizz Air generally doesn’t run very reliably on schedule, which is something you’ll definitely want to factor in before taking a flight with them.
This isn’t a huge hassle if you’re on a weekender trip getting home at 6 PM, and don’t mind being a couple of hours late (they’re pretty good with not cancelling flights). However I definitely wouldn’t book a Wizz Air flight with a two-hour connection to a longhaul flight.
Wizz Air’s Ground Experience in Nice
I didn’t check-in at the airport since I already had a mobile boarding pass, so I headed straight to security at Nice Airport. I was let out into the beautiful airside Schengen terminal.
Nice Airport Schengen Terminal
After queueing for about 10 minutes, I passed passport control to get to the B-gates (for non-Schengen departures), which was a little less expansive and was more under renovation, though still had a fair bit of natural light.
(Not-So-)Nice Airport Non-Schengen Terminal
This would’ve been the exact same departure experience if I flew any airline (regardless of cabin even, though I would’ve been able to skip a couple of minutes of queueing if I was flying business class and had access to the priority security lane).
I was able to see the Wizz Air A321neo I was flying pull into the gate – what a striking livery! The front half of the plane deplaned via jetbridge, whereas the rear half deplaned via air stairs, before walking back up the stairs onto the jetbridge and into the terminal – I found this very interesting, as I hadn’t seen it before.
Wizz Air A321neo at Nice Airport
People were sitting around the gate when I first got there at 10:15 AM, ahead of a “gate close” time of 11 AM. No boarding time is published on the Wizz Air mobile boarding pass. However, at 10:45 AM, the gate agent put up Wizz Air’s boarding sign, and everyone automatically rushed to form lines to board.
Low-cost airlines generally are extra stringent with visa checks, because they’re especially wary about having to fly you back if you don’t have the correct visa requirements to enter your destination country (as they make minimal margins on most tickets). Visas were checked during boarding, though since I have a British National Overseas visa (which most gate agents outside of Hong Kong probably wouldn’t see on a daily basis), I showed mine beforehand in case I ran into any issues.
Strangely the lady checking visas didn’t accept my official written permission for entry into the UK (which comes in the form of an email), though accepted my right-to-work proof. The size of my bag wasn’t checked during boarding, although the scale was taken out (perhaps in case any bags looked suspiciously large).
Wizz Air Boarding Priority Lane
Sure enough, boarding for us also was a hybrid between jetbridge and air stairs. I was seated in the front half of the plane, so as much as I would’ve loved to get a view of the plane on the tarmac, I boarded via jetbridge.
Wizz Air Boarding Process at Nice Airport
Wizz Air UK Flight W95728
Sunday, January 21, 2024
Origin: Nice (NCE) T: 2 Gate: B25 Dep: 11:30 (11:20)
Destination: London (LGW) T: South Gate: 10 Arr: 12:35 (12:25)
Duration: 2 h 5 min (2 h 5 min)
Aircraft: Airbus A321neo Reg: G-WUKO
Seat: 5A (Standard Class)
Wizz Air A321neo Cabin and Seat
Low-cost airlines are generally a feast for the eyes for all the wrong reasons – rows and rows of seats closely packed together, clad with whatever questionable colour the cheapest fabric or faux leather was sold in. Wizz Air’s A321neos have 239 seats, by far the densest out there.
However, I’d say the cabin was fairly well kept, and the plane looked really fresh. I liked the hints of bright pink to reflect Wizz Air’s branding, and there weren’t any advertisements in the cabin.
Wizz Air A321neo Cabin
The seats aren’t comfortable or well-padded by any means, and do feel a bit like sitting on an ironing board. However, Wizz Air’s all-Airbus fleet does make a difference, as the Airbus A320 family generally features a significantly wider fuselage (and, thus, seat) than their 737 counterparts.
It’s said that Wizz Air has a seat pitch of 28″. I did have a measuring tape with me, but didn’t think to take it out. However, no way (I’m not tall, but I’m not that short) the seat pitch here was as little as 28″ – either the seat was incredibly well-designed, or the seat pitch was really more in line with easyJet (29″) or British Airways (30″). The airline uses Recaro SL3710 seats, and while there isn’t recline in any of these seats, I do believe they come ever so slightly more “pre-clined” than most economy class seats do. Granted I had three seats next to me which made a huge difference, though I don’t think this is a seat I would’ve squirmed in on a short but full flight. (Online reviews generally agree that legroom feels generous on Wizz Air planes, even on a full flight.)
Wizz Air A321neo Legroom and Seat Pitch
There were a couple of things about the seat that did impress me. Firstly, while small, the tray table could be pulled back and forth – I preferred this tray table to easyJet’s “new-design” tray tables on some of their newer aircraft.
Wizz Air A321neo Tray Table
Secondly, I’d had the impression the airline would be far too cheap to install small touches such as coat hooks, so was pleasantly surprised to see one.
Wizz Air A321neo Coat Hook
Lastly, all seats featured individual air nozzles. How cool is that – Wizz Air (perhaps inadvertently) managed to invest in something that many full-service airlines won’t in first and business class!
Wizz Air A321neo Air Nozzles
Overall the cabin impressed me – it wasn’t tacky, was well-maintained, felt fresh, and most importantly was comfortable enough for short plane journeys.
You can get a bit more legroom if you want (prices on this flight started from around €11/£9.42/HK$94) – rows 18 and 19 featured a slightly more extensive amount of space, though the tray tables were still situated at the seats in front.
Wizz Air A321neo Rows 18 and 19
Meanwhile if you don’t mind the lack of a window and facing a flight attendant during takeoff and landing, you might like seat 29F, which otherwise has infinite legroom inflight (as it faces a jumpseat).
Wizz Air A321neo Seat 29F
Generally I tend to avoid exit rows (even if I can select them for free), unless I’m specifically looking to rest on that flight. I value storage space under the seat in front of me, which can be challenging in exit row seats. I could really feel that Wizz Air “randomly” allocates worse seats before better seats, as the back of the plane was fairly full, whereas most of the seats in the first few rows were left empty.
While I generally like sitting in the last row, I’d skip row 40 (unless the row’s empty), as it’s missing a window and feels tighter due to the tapering of the fuselage.
Wizz Air A321neo Lavatory
Wizz Air has three lavatories on their A321neos – one is at the front of the cabin, whereas two are at the back. One lavatory per 80 passengers is rough, though since the flight wasn’t particularly full, there wasn’t too much of a wait. The lavatories on the back are tighter than this forward lavatory, which matched any lavatory you’d find in intra-European business class.
Wizz Air A321neo Lavatory
Departing Nice Airport
Boarding felt slow, though I definitely noticed more people were boarding through the rear door than through the forward door. A “boarding complete” announcement was given at 11:15 AM, 15 minutes before our scheduled departure time.
The captain on this flight was a delight, and said over the PA that “great people” would be serving us onboard. He mentioned our 1h 40m flight time, and said that “unfortunately” we’d be experiencing some turbulence on this flight, so encouraged us to keep our seatbelts fastened. He mentioned that the first officer would be taking us over, and he himself would be bringing us into Gatwick.
We pushed back at 11:20 AM, 10 minutes before our departure time. Nice Airport really is a…nice airport, especially by the Schengen area. The airport is quite close to the beautiful city as well, which made for a nice backdrop as we taxiied to the runway.
Nice Airport traffic
We took off from runway 04R at 11:35 AM, where we had beautiful views over Nice, especially with the Alps in the background.
Departing Nice Airport
As we veered right to do a 270° turn north, we had beautiful views of the airport, the coastline, as well as the snow-capped Alps. Given the weather and the clear blue skies, I remembered thinking to myself that it was cool that the Alps were snow-capped at this time of year, before realising that it was January…aha.
Beautiful Landscape over Southern France
Wizz Air A321neo WiFi and Entertainment
Wizz Air doesn’t have WiFi or entertainment on their A321neos. Norwegian, Vueling and Pegasus lead the way in Europe on this front (I haven’t flown either of these airlines), though I don’t believe Wizz Air has any plans to hop on the bandwagon.
Wizz Air’s Buy-On-Board Service
Around 3o minutes after takeoff, the crew came round with a selection of snacks to purchase. Obviously Wizz Air doesn’t do free food and beverages as an ultra-low cost carrier. However, they did advertise a couple of “meal deals”, where certain hot items came with a free drink. Hot items included noodles, risotto, or carbonara, all of which were served out of instant containers.
Also, can I point out how small the galleys are for crewmembers to work out of? They literally have been relegated to a corner on Wizz Air’s A321neos to fit in more seats – yikes!
Wizz Air A321neo Galley
I decided to go for a pot noodle (or “noodle soup”, as it was described). They didn’t have any beef pot noodles, so I had a chicken pot noodle. This came with a chocolate bar and a drink as a meal deal, so I had a bottle of water. The meal was served with disposable eco-friendly cutlery. This set me back €8 (£6.84/HK$68).
Wizz Air A321neo Meal
The meal options definitely do feel cheap, and nothing is fresh – there’s also a variety of sandwiches, though hot food is ready meal-esque. I’d say they feel a bit more basic than easyJet (for similar prices), though not much more so. It was lunchtime so I didn’t indulge, though they also have an alcohol selection, where you can buy two beers for €13 (£11.32/HK$110) and get a can of Pringles for free. In short, Wizz Air’s food selection doesn’t fall on the cheap end, and I probably wouldn’t have had anything if I wasn’t reviewing the product.
The flight attendants serving the cabin were also friendly, and a pleasure to interact with. Operating 239-seater narrowbody planes sure isn’t the most fun flight attendant job in the world, though the crew handled the meal service well, and it was completed quite swiftly, despite most people in the cabin ordering something. They were also polite and courteous.
You can find Wizz Air’s menu here.
Landing into London Gatwick Airport
At around 11:50 AM London time the captain came back onto the PA to announce that we were landing soon. He mentioned that we had made quite a bit of progress and were due to arrive early, though “unfortunately the weather in London wasn’t great – grey, drizzly, 11°C but very windy”. He tried not to chuckle when saying “if you’re deplaning via the rear stairs, make sure you hold on to your belongings so they don’t blow away”, and said “we’d like to thank you for flying Wizz Air, we do realise it is a choice”.
The weather while landing into Gatwick was indeed grim, especially compared to the beautiful weather in the south coast of France.
Weather while landing into Gatwick Airport
Gatwick Airport sure is a haven for low-cost airlines, including easyJet and Norwegian. We taxiied past many of these planes before arriving at gate 10 of the South Terminal, the closest gate to immigration.
Traffic at Gatwick Airport
On the way to immigration I was able to get a good view of the Wizz Air A321neo which had taken us from Nice.
Wizz Air A321neo at Gatwick Airport
Immigration was a breeze, and by 12:35 PM (our stated arrival time) I was landside. However, a very limited train service was running out of Gatwick that day (including trains being diverted via Horsham, making a 30-minute journey to Victoria take 74 minutes), so I ended up having to grab an Uber into the city for £80 (HK$793), which was over four times the “base” cost of the flight. Yowzers…
Conclusion: How was Wizz Air?
On a good day, Wizz Air is a very pleasant way to fly. Neglecting the fact that I had three seats to myself, there’s good legroom, the seats are fairly wide for a low-cost carrier (albeit not being well padded), and the flight attendants were friendly.
My flight was also on time (it was even early), and the boarding process for this flight didn’t involve being herded to a plane only to wait outdoors for hours. However, Wizz Air doesn’t have the best operational reliability and many of their flights are based out of Luton Airport, where I can imagine this could’ve been a vastly different experience where neither of the above were true. That could massively impact the flying experience, even on a low-cost carrier.
I’ve been hypothesising that you can engineer the low-cost carrier experience to feel like flying a premium cabin intra-Europe, especially because intra-European business class is so bad – you can pay for priority boarding (and/or a front row seat), buy a meal for much cheaper, and even buy fast-track security and lounge access in some instances. In this case, the onboard food offering was uncompetitive, and none of Wizz Air’s planes feature WiFi – so I’d still say that in this case the difference between flying Wizz Air and British Airways/Lufthansa economy class was still noticeable.
Still though, especially given the prices Wizz Air charges, I’d fly them again in a heartbeat. I’m keen to experience Wizz Air on a “bad” day, though (okay, maybe keen isn’t the right word).
Have you flown Wizz Air before?